Stop dreaming and get planting

It’s still not warm, and it’s nearly the middle of May.

Maybe we’ll have a long hot summer to make up for this dismal spring. Not too hot, mind you — this place gets sweltering on a hot day, even with both doors open. However, it is what it is, and I better get used to it, and my kids did give me an air-conditioner last summer which certainly helped keep me from turning into an ugly grease-spot on the carpet — and the plants love it, so how dare I complain.

If you’ve got your vegetable beds ready to plant, every weed banished,  the soil well turned over,  and manure dug-in, you could start planting all vegetables except tomatoes and peppers. Maybe you should wait a bit to put out transplants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, but if you plant them out now they could be covered with Reemay cloth at night until warm weather arrives.

If the soil is warm enough you could put in your beans, both pole and bush. Pole beans will require staking or (easier) a wire circle affair. Use cattle fencing which has gaps between the wires large enough for you to get your hand through to get those elusive beans that appear inside the wire. Do keep them picked when they are fairly small, and tender, so that the plants will keep producing, instead of deciding they’ve done their bit for this year and stop blooming, and producing those delightful green beans (or purple ones which turn green when cooked) or the yellow ones. I always liked the circle of wire as I could put an old bucket with holes in it, in the middle, and fill it with water each day to keep the soil moist.

It’s time to think about your pots and hanging baskets while there is still a good selection of small plants to fill them. I like to put at least one perennial plant in the centre of baskets so that when annual plants begin to look tired, there is at least one plant that still looks happy. Sweet William could be one choice, or perhaps a heather, or one of the popular ornamental grasses.

You can always tuck in a few nasturtiums seeds during the summer to keep fresh blooms coming. You can get ones that are dark red instead of the standard yellow ones which would look more at home with purple petunias, but that is, of course, up to you. There is always a place for pansies in a basket, they seem to go on forever, bless their cotton socks. And don’t forget Bocopa which will hang down, as will trailing lobelia, and you can get pink Bocopa now as well as the white one.

Don’t forget to dead-head your tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths to allow all nourishment generated by the leaves to replenish the bulbs, instead of letting them try to produce seed. Also you could prune winter jasmine quite severely now that it has stopped blooming, and take out some of the older growth on forsythia, or just sit on the deck and think about all the things that still need doing, dreaming of the perfect garden, as you are drinking tea or perhaps something stronger (and I’m not talking about coffee!)

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.